Sullivan climbing the ranks |

Sullivan climbing the ranks

Alessandro Trovati/APTruckee's Marco Sullivan races to his first-ever World Cup victory this past weekend. After the win, Sullivan moved up to fourth in the downhill standings.

More than a half-season deep in his ninth year on the U.S. Ski Team, the Squaw Valley kid with endless racing potential finally dialed in the winning formula on the World Cup stage.

It happened this past Saturday, when Marco Sullivan ” no longer a kid at age 27 ” scorched the Chamonix, France downhill course to win his first-ever World Cup race.

“I’m feeling good, feeling healthy,” Sullivan, a 1998 North Tahoe High grad, said by phone Wednesday from Val d’Isere, France. “The last month I’ve been ramping it up.”

Indeed. This after starting the season with a career-best second place at Lake Louise, Alberta, but then following with consecutive subpar finishes ” 40th and 41st ” in the downhill, his discipline of specialty.

“After I got second, I knew I was skiing well, and I was just expecting things to happen,” said Sullivan, who lost two years of his career to knee injuries before making a comeback in 2005-06. “But after two mediocre weeks, it was kind of a reminder that you’ve really got to work at it.”

So he got to work. And the results followed.

After Christmas, Sullivan began notching quality downhill finishes, placing 12th, seventh and sixth before this past weekend’s win. He also finished 10th in a super G ” the other discipline in which he competes.

The recent surge vaulted him into fourth place in the World Cup downhill standings.

Now, with seven downhill races in the bag and three remaining, Sullivan is smelling the finish to a breakout World Cup season.

“My big goal is to finish somewhere in the top five,” he said. “Obviously I’d like to move up a bit, but I think the top five would be a pretty good accomplishment. I was 22nd last year, so for me to make it into the top five would be a huge jump for me.”

His next shot to move up in the standings comes this weekend, when the men race a downhill course, Val d’Isere, that hasn’t been run since the 1992 Olympics.

Training on the course this week, Sullivan described it as an intense, steep hill that is “super turny,” making for a slower average speed than the typical downhill.

“If they sent us straight down it, it would be suicidal,” he said, adding that only one racer on the World Cup circuit is old enough to have run it.

Even Truckee’s Daron Rahlves ” the most accomplished skier in the history of U.S. speed events, as well as a good friend of Sullivan’s ” never raced the course. So Sullivan, who often takes advantage of the opportunity to pick Rahlves’ brain, is out of luck for advice.

When it comes to hometown support, however, Rahlves isn’t the only local paying close attention to Sullivan’s success. He learned as much after this past weekend’s win.

“I was stoked to here from all my fans from back home. I got a bunch of e-mails and blogs, and just to know that I have all that support back home is pretty special to me,” Sullivan said. “I’m looking forward to getting back there.”

Especially if that rumored snowfall is still blessing Tahoe resorts, he said.

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